The Batak people live in the north of Sumatra, in the hilly region of lake Toba. At the beginning of this century the last Batak were placed under the authority of the Netherlands. Most of them were christianized. The Batak form the largest protestant community of Asia. Nevertheless a lot of old traditions were preserved. More than 4 million people are Batak; it is one of Indonesia’s largest population groups.
The rough and tough physical appearance of the Batak people is the result of Lake Toba’s natural condition – the soil is dry and hard that force Batak people to work hard for food. Such character is only in appearance. Batak people are outgoing, friendly and have a good heart. However, the Batak people have a fascinating history – they were cannibals. This practice was reserved for criminals such as murderers and the entire village would join in on the cannibalism, which went out when Christianity arrived. Batak societies are patriarchal. The Batak cultures stands out in weaving, wood carving and especially in its ornate stone tombs. Their burial cultures are very rich and complex, and includes a ceremony in which the bones of one’s ancestors are reinterred several years after death (mangungkal holi).
Actually Batak is a general name for 6 groups with different cultural and linguistic characteristics, but they believe in a descent of a common ancestor. However, all Batak have in common that they live on the growing of rice and have the same wedding system. The Batak are organized in ‘margas’, large family groups. The members of one marga can only marry a person of another marga. Upon her marriage the wife passes over into the husband’s marga. The Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun people live around Parapat. The Batak people composed of Batak Toba, Simulungun, Pak-Pak, and Karo, are known for their expressiveness, which is often materialized in lively and sentimental love songs. If every person in Bali can carve, every person in Batak can sing of play the guitar.